US Vice President Mike Pence has expressed concern over Myanmar court’s rejection of the appeal of jailed Reuters reporters and said the courts have “failed a basic test in democracy”.
In a tweet on Friday evening (Jan 11), the vice president said, “Deeply troubling to learn that Burma’s courts upheld the convictions of 2 journalists today - failing a basic test in democracy.”
“In the name of free & independent press, the govt of Burma should release these journalists immediately. The world is watching,” he added.
A Myanmar court on Friday (Jan 11) rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act. The court said the defence had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
Earlier in the day, the State Department too expressed its disappointment over the court’s decision.
“Today’s ruling casts doubt not only on freedom of expression in Burma, but also raises questions about Burma’s commitment to the rule of law,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement.
“We will continue to advocate at all levels for the just release of these brave journalists,” he added.
Vice President Pence has many a times raised the issue of atrocities against Rohingyas in Myanmar.
In November, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore, he confronted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the "violence and persecution" of her country's Rohingya Muslims.
Sitting next to Suu Kyi and with the news media present, Pence said her country's atrocities were "without excuse." The vice president also called on Suu Kyi to hold those responsible to account.
Pence also implored her to protect the rights of a free press.
"In America, we believe in democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press,” Pence said. "The arrests and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans."